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UFC 196 fight card: Conor McGregor vs Nate Diaz full fight preview

Conor McGregor and Nate Diaz will go to war TONIGHT (March 5, 2016) at UFC 196 inside MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada. In a match up of lanky strikers, what adjustments must be made for either man to claim victory? Find out below!

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Watch the incredible video highlights from UFC 196 last night!

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Welterweight warriors Conor McGregor and Nate Diaz will clash TONIGHT (March 5, 2016) at UFC 196 inside MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.

McGregor has proven that he's willing to fight just about anyone. After another opponent pulled out just days before the event, McGregor has stepped up in weight to throw down with the younger Diaz brother.

Meanwhile, it may not be under usual circumstances, but Diaz managed to secure a bout with the fiery Irishman. Now after plenty of talk, Diaz will have his chance to send McGregor back to Featherweight with his tail between his legs.

Let's take a look at the keys to victory for both athletes:

Conor McGregor
Record: 19-2
Key Wins: Jose Aldo (UFC 194), Chad Mendes (UFC 189), Dustin Poirier (UFC 178)
Key Losses: None
Keys to Victory: McGregor is a terrific striker with massive knockout power in his left hand. In recent years, he's proven himself quite dangerous both as a counter puncher and aggressor, making it interesting question as to which strategy he'll look to employ against Diaz.

It's in an interesting question, as McGregor will likely have to blend the two approaches. Diaz is comfortable in exchanges, the larger fighter, and has a solid chin, so simply walking forward and throwing is very risky. At the same time, it's difficult to counter a taller, longer fighter unless they seriously over-commit.

With that in mind, McGregor's kicks should play a major role in his strategy. That's a part of the game that Diaz has ignored for a long time, whereas McGregor is very skilled with his long kicks.

It could prove to be an important equalizer.

In particular, I'd like to see McGregor make use of his body kick. Michael Johnson -- a fellow Southpaw -- landed that strike well on Diaz, and it could help set up a high kick.


Nate Diaz
Record: 18-10
Key Wins: Michael Johnson (UFC on FOX 17), Donald Cerrone (UFC 141), Jim Miller (UFC on FOX 3)
Key Losses: Raphael dos Anjos (UFC on FOX 13), Josh Thomson (UFC on FOX 7), Ben Henderson (UFC on FOX 5)
Keys to Victory: Diaz has been competing inside the Octagon for a very long time. He's grown quite a bit over his career, and he now stands as a slick boxer, jiu-jitsu ace, and cardio machine.

Perhaps most important, Diaz has grown to be a far more physical fighter. That transition seemed to occur following Diaz's attempted rise to Welterweight, as he bullied his opponent in the clinch more often and showed greater strength.

Judging by Diaz's improved physique, that evolution has continued since then. Against the smaller fighter, that would be a smart game plan opposite McGregor.

If Diaz looks to smartly pressure his opponent, he should be able to find the clinch. From that position, Diaz can wear McGregor down -- a man accustomed to fighting Featherweights -- and look for takedowns. Diaz may not be the greatest wrestler, but he does have some tricky clinch attacks and a size advantage.

On a semi-related note, it's important that Diaz tries to draw this bout out. McGregor throws hard and at a very high pace, which is a difficult task to maintain at any weight class. It's very possible that McGregor could become far less effective in the later rounds, and Diaz is excellent at swarming tired fighters.

Bottom Line: It should be madness, and there are so variables that it's an enormously difficult fight to predict.

For McGregor, every bout for him will be hugely important until he loses. With a win here, McGregor is both building his legend and likely securing an opportunity to fight 170-pound champion Robbie Lawler at some point in the future.

Which, in my professional opinion, is crazy, but that's neither here nor there.

On the other hand, a loss would undoubtedly hurt the Irishman. He's built himself up very high, meaning there's plenty of room to fall as well. While a loss is definitely excusable because of the bizarre situation, it may mean McGregor restricts himself to the Featherweight division in the near future.

As the short-notice replacement, Diaz is in an interesting place. Diaz may have an ugly record, but there's absolutely no denying that he's a top Lightweight. McGregor very nearly challenged for the Lightweight strap, so a victory over him puts Diaz right back in the title mix.

Alternatively, Diaz doesn't really lose any ground with a loss. McGregor is a champion, and Diaz did take the fight on less than a couple weeks notice.

TONIGHT at UFC 196, Conor McGregor and Nate Diaz will throw down in the main event. Which fighter will earn the victory?

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